The most dangerous threats are often the ones we cannot see. If we’re not careful, hazards to our indoor air quality can easily fall into the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ category in our minds.
Unsuspecting homeowners may be plagued by an array of irritating cold-like symptoms that seem to persist for months. They may not realize it is actually their home that could be making them sick.
As a Virginia homeowner, you need to know where hidden threats to your indoor air quality may be lurking so you can prevent illnesses related to contaminated air.
That is why Air Quality Consultants, Inc. is here with a room-by-room analysis of what toxins or contaminants may be present in Virginia homes, what the cause may be, and how to prevent low indoor air quality.
Kitchen - Threats to Indoor Air Quality
Since kitchen areas are mainly used for cooking and cleaning, kitchens are exposed to more moisture and chemicals than most other areas of the home, making them a hot spot for living contaminants.
Cooking – You may have noticed condensation on the walls near the stove when you cook on your stovetop. Without proper ventilation and cleaning, this high moisture area can foster the growth of mold and become a perfect nest for pests, such as cockroaches. Be sure to install exhaust fans for proper ventilation in your kitchen, and consider opening a window while cooking.
Appliances – Kitchen appliances, such as dishwashers and refrigerators run warm, create a high-moisture environment, and are hard to clean around. Leaky appliances especially pose a danger, since mold could easily grow in water damaged areas. It is important to properly maintain all appliances and regularly move them to clean behind and underneath them.
Chemicals – Many people store cleaners and chemicals in a cabinet below their sink or perhaps in a closet in the kitchen. The American Lung Association warns “Many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems, including cancer. Some products release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs).” It is important to select carefully what kind of cleaning supplies and solvents you use. If possible, try to avoid harsh chemicals, including aerosol and toxic products, and be sure to store your cleaners out of reach of children and pets.
Bathroom – Hazards to Your Air
As another high-moisture area in the home, bathrooms are especially at risk for growing mold and mildew in the walls, ceiling or floor.
The Health Encyclopedia of the University of Rochester Medical Center counsels; “A relative humidity of 30% to 50% is generally advised for homes. Remove standing water, water-damaged materials, and wet surfaces. These can be a breeding ground for molds, mildews, bacteria, and insects.” Granted, this can be hard to control in Richmond and Virginia Beach’s coastal, humid climate.
Causes & Prevention
Shower steam – Steam created from running hot showers or baths can quickly fog up a bathroom and condensation may collect on the ceiling and walls. Exhaust fans as well as ventilation from an open window can help keep the moisture levels under control.
Standing water – Splashing from the shower and sink, water dripped on to the floor when drying off after showering, or wet towels left on the floor can all lead to water seeping into the floorboards. Act quickly to wipe up and fully dry any standing water left on the floor, and do not leave wet towels or garments lying around. Maintaining a dry environment will help discourage mold and mildew growth.
Personal products and cleaners – Many personal care products and cleaners come in aerosol cans and can give off harmful gases. Even air fresheners, intended to make a room smell better could actually be doing more harm than help. Commenting on indoor air fresheners, the National Capital Poison Center states, “Despite their popularity, there are concerns that these products increase indoor air pollution and pose a health risk, especially with long-term exposure. Air fresheners release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.”
Living Room – Hidden Air Quality Threats
Even in the low-moisture environment of a living area, threats to overall indoor air quality may be hiding. Let’s do a carpet to ceiling check to make sure there’s nothing dangerous threatening your air.
Causes & Prevention
Carpeting – New carpeting and adhesives used to install it can actually give off gases. Spills on carpets, if not quickly and properly addressed, can become a cozy home for living contaminants, such as mold. Carpet also tends to lock in allergy-causing pollen and dust mites. Before installing new carpet, make sure it’s been properly aired out, and ask your installer to use an adhesive with fewer chemicals. Act fast to fully clean and dry spills or messes. Be sure to vacuum frequently to control dust mites. If water damage has already been done, removing the carpet is your best option.
Paint – If your house is old and the paint predates 1978, you could have lead paint. Even if it is buried under layers of non-lead paint, the original lead paint still could be present and pose a danger. No level of lead is safe, and the effects of lead poisoning are not reversible. If you are unsure, start by getting a lead paint test. When painting with modern, non-lead paints, be sure to open doors and windows for ventilation. It’s wise to wait for the paint to dry and allow the house to properly air out before spending the night in a freshly painted home.
Furniture – Upholstered furniture cushions tend to lock in potentially irritating particulates, such as dust mites and pollen. FamilyDoctor.org explains “Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in your home… Dust mites feed off of pet and human dander… They live in every home in items such as mattresses and furniture… Symptoms of dust mite allergy include sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, and nasal congestion.” Minimize upholstered furniture in your home, and be sure to thoroughly vacuum and regularly clean the furniture you do have, including underneath where dust stacks up.
Bedroom – Air Quality Where You Sleep
With essentially an entire third of our life spent sleeping, ensuring a healthy sleeping environment is crucial to our overall well-being. One of the biggest factors is being able to breathe high-quality air while we sleep. Here are some common irritants, and how to remedy them.
Causes & Prevention
Bedding – Sheets and pillows can easily trap in living air pollutants. The Mayo Clinic advises “Wash bedding weekly. Wash all sheets, blankets, pillowcases and bedcovers in hot water that is at least 130 F (54.4 C) to kill dust mites and remove allergens… Freezing nonwashable items for 24 hours also can kill dust mites, but this won’t remove the allergens.” Investing in allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers is also recommended.
Laundry – Laundry detergents as well as gases from dry cleaned clothes may irritate some sleepers. Try air drying your clothes before putting them away in the closet.
Air conditioning and humidifiers – AC units and humidifiers create a high-moisture environment for living contaminants to grow in. Frequently clean water trays, swap out filters, and perform regular maintenance on such devices according to manufacturer’s directions.
Garage, Utility & Laundry Room
Laundry rooms, utility rooms, and garages store appliances, fixtures, and utilities that can pose threats to indoor air quality, if not properly maintained and managed.
Water leaks – In every area of your home, be sure your plumbing fixtures are well maintained and in good order. Leaky sinks or toilets can lead to water damage and massive mold growth. Quickly address any plumbing issues. Besides plumbing issues, make certain that every part of your roofing is fully in-tact and leak-proof.
Clothes washer and dryers – Dryer exhaust creates moisture that can encourage mold growth and accumulate dust, if not properly ventilated. Be sure your dryer has a vent, and frequently clean the lint trap. Don’t let excess water sit in any part of your washing machine. Consider leaving the door to your washing machine cracked so that it can dry out when not in use, since washing machines (especially front loaders) can have water pool up and give off a mildew-type smell.
Radon – Any home, whether old or new construction, can be at risk from radon poisoning. Before purchasing a property, have the home tested for radon levels by Air Quality Consultants.
HVAC Systems – Without proper maintenance, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems can become a mere facilitator of indoor air pollutants. Regularly replace filters and clean air ducts to ensure optimum functionality and air quality safety.
Test Your Indoor Air Quality
Despite all your best efforts to prevent contaminants from polluting the purity of the air you breathe in your home, there may still be hidden dangers, such as mold growing in the walls.
Here are some signs that you may have an indoor air quality problem:
- You notice a stale or mildew-y odor
- Your home is consistently exposed to high humidity levels
- You notice any visible mold, mildew, or discoloration on the walls or ceiling
- The air in your home feels stuffy and does not circulate well
- You are experiencing cold-like symptoms but feel better when you go outdoors
- You are having frequent allergy or asthma attacks
- Your HVAC system is broken or has not been serviced recently
- You are experiencing persistent headaches at home
- You are moving into a new property that is old or has been vacant for some time
- Your home has sustained water damage
In any of these cases, one of the quickest routes to identifying the problem and gaining peace of mind is to have your indoor air quality tested by a professional. An indoor air quality test will reveal the condition of the air you breathe in your home and expose any lurking dangers.
Indoor air quality testing is also recommended for anyone interested in purchasing a new home. Testing the home for mold, radon, and other harmful particulates could save your wallet and, more importantly, your health in the long run.
Save Big on Indoor Air Quality Testing in Virginia
Operating out of Virginia Beach and Richmond, Air Quality Consultants, Inc. is now running a special ‘Fungus Among Us’ Annual Sale. For just a limited time only, you can get our 2 room indoor air particulate, volatile organic compound, or mold test for just $350! Act now, because the sale ends June 15th, 2019.
We happily offer expert indoor air quality testing within a 100 mile radius of both Richmond and Virginia Beach. Our precision testing can help you get down to the bottom of what has been causing your persistent symptoms, and hopefully help you map out a path to better air quality in your home.
Stop guessing, start testing! Contact us today on our website or call one of our two offices at Virginia Beach (757) 650-0996 or Richmond (804) 687-9190.